LAKELAND, FL - Ryan Frost and Zach Scott homered in the fifth inning, and Jacob Kelley tossed 4.1 innings of scoreless relief as Florida Southern College baseball rallied past Merrimack by a 6-4 final on Thursday night at Henley Field. The No. 13 Moccasins (6-2) fell behind 4-1 after four innings of play but teed off on the Warriors (0-1) in the bottom of the fifth to tie things up and tacked on a pair of runs in the sixth to complete the comeback.
Kelley (1-0) allowed just one base runner and struck out two out of the bullpen, while Leo Rodriguez picked up his fifth save of the season. Vaun Brown and Zach Diewert had two hits each, and Brown and Frost drove in two runs apiece. The Mocs will open Sunshine State Conference action on Friday at home against Barry in the first game of a three-game weekend series.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Florida Southern struck quickly with a run in the bottom of the first. Following a leadoff walk by Frost, who advanced to second on a groundout to short and to third on a fly ball to right, Jacob Teter would walk to put runners on the corners with two out. Diewert slammed a double to left in the next at-bat to score Frost, but Teter was gunned down at home to end the inning.
- The Mocs put a pair of runners in scoring position with two down in the bottom of the second, but Frost struck out to end the threat and Merrimack took advantage by tying things up in the top of the third. A leadoff walk and a failed pickoff attempt allowed Kurtis Stadnicki to reach second with no outs. A single allowed Stadnicki to reach third and he came around to score on a sacrifice fly to right to tie the game at 1-1.
- In the top of the fourth, the Warriors scored three times on an RBI single to left and a two-run single to right that chased Moccasin starter Trevor Castell from the mound and put Merrimack up 4-1 after four innings.
- Southern roared back in the bottom half of the fifth when Frost hit a towering fly ball over the right field wall to bring in two following Ricky Gonzalez's leadoff single. One batter later, Scott pulled a ball over the left field wall to tie things at 4-4 heading into the sixth.
- Kelley sat the Warriors down in order in the top of the sixth inning and Brown line a two-out double off the wall in left to score a pair after Diewert and Isaiah Cullum reached base to start the inning. The runs would prove to be the final blow as Florida Southern never surrendered the lead thanks to six-straight outs from Kelley and another save from Rodriguez, who worked his way out of a two-on, one-out jam in the ninth by recording a fly ball out and a strikeout to end the game.
- Brown finished 2-for-3 with two RBI and two stolen bases, while Frost also went 2-for-3, scored twice, and drove in two. Castell allowed four runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings of work, and Rodriguez remained perfect in save situations this year.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- Florida Southern improved to 9-1 all-time against Merrimack. Each game in the series has been played at Henley Field. The win was the 193rd for Moccasin head coach Lance Niekro, who needs just seven more to record 200 wins in his coaching career. He is 193-117-1 in seven seasons at the helm of the program.
- Pablo Cabrera, who went 1-for-4 on Thursday, needs just 46 more hits to move into the top 10 in school history. He has recorded 182 hits in four seasons, with a career-best 71 last year.
- With his 12th career save, Rodriguez now ranks fifth in school history in career saves. The school record of 30 is held by Daniel Tillman (2008-10). Rodriguez needs one more save to move into a tie for fourth and is 11 saves shy of second place.
- Diewert has a hit in all eight games this season. He leads the Mocs in batting average (.452), doubles (5), home runs (2), and RBI (9). Cabrera, Cullum, Diewert, and Teter have all reached base safely in each game this year.
- Florida Southern opens SSC play with a 6 p.m. contest against Barry on Friday at Henley Field. The Mocs close out the three-game series with a doubleheader on Saturday at 1 p.m. and will face Kentucky Wesleyan in a three-game series next week (Feb. 27 - March 1). Southern plays its next nine games at home before hitting the road to face Claflin (March 8-10).